Audiobook Review: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Random House Audio (April 21, 2020)
Length: 16 hrs and 6 mins
Narrators: Julia Whelan, Lauren Fortgang, and Hillary Huber
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown was a very different thriller than I expected, and in fact, I would even hesitate to describe the overall story as “thrilling” in the traditional sense, though it was still plenty suspenseful and full of twists.
One of the reasons for this is the unconventional way the novel unfolds. As much of it takes place in the present as in the past, revealed in flashbacks. We have Nina Ross, a con artist, though she had dreams of becoming more once. Life had different plans for her, however, and rather than a respectable career, she instead followed in her mother’s footsteps. After all, Mama Ross was the original grifter, who taught her daughter everything she knows. Still, Nina wouldn’t have needed to do this if she weren’t so desperate. Ever since her mom got sick, she’s been struggling to pay her astronomical medical bills on top of her rent and student loans. And in any case, Nina has decided together with Lachlan, her on-again-off-again boyfriend and partner in crime, that they only steal from those who can afford it.
Enter Vanessa Liebling, heiress to a vast fortune—and Nina and Lachlan’s next target. Vanessa’s father has just passed away, leaving behind Stonehaven, the Liebling family mansion on the shore of Lake Tahoe. It is here where Vanessa has retreated, to deal with her grief and find peace away from her glitzy yet shallow life as an Instagram influencer. What Vanessa doesn’t know though, is that she and Nina share a past connection, and Nina and Lachlan would like to keep things that way, in order for their scam to work.
Plus, not only is Nina going after Vanessa’s money, she’s doing this for payback. Posing as a couple taking an extended break from their city lives, Nina and Lachlan move into a rustic-style cottage on Stonehaven grounds and begin working on Vanessa. The plan is the befriend her and gain her trust, so that they can gain access to the mansion, whose halls Nina actually knows intimately. Somewhere deep inside is a safe containing the answer to all her problems, and yet everything could still fall apart if she cannot keep up the charade. Being back in that massive house, surrounded by its secrets and memories is affecting Nina in ways she had not expected, but she knows if she can’t hold it together, it will cost her everything.
As I alluded to before though, this story doesn’t always feel like a thriller, and it certainly doesn’t begin like one. In fact, so much of the first half was slow developing, but I do want to emphasize this does not mean it was slow-moving, because the truth is Brown was able to keep things very interesting. It’s true we have plenty of flashbacks, but it soon becomes clear that these sections delving into the past will become as, if not more, important than the events taking place in the present. We do this first with Nina, and then with Vanessa, before all will be revealed. And then, mwahahahaha! The real fun begins.
What impressed me was how cinematic this one felt to read, and when I found out earlier this month that it had been picked up by Amazon for a series adaptation, it didn’t really surprise me at all. In many ways, Pretty Things seemed made for the screen, featuring a deadly game of secrets and lies between two brilliant but broken women. You even have a gorgeous and decadent old mansion set against the scenic backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains to complete the picture. And though I thought the mystery element was somewhat lacking, as there were quite a few “twists” I predicted well ahead of time, there were still a good number of surprises left in store, and of course no one can deny the moments of intense suspense especially once the ball starts rolling on Nina and Lachlan’s big con.
The characters are also fascinating, developed in great detail. After all, without this aspect, the premise would not have worked nearly as well, nor would the crux of it have come to fruition the way it did. I won’t go into any more detail than that, in order to preserve the mystery, but suffice it to say I found this to be an entertaining read featuring with great characters and a heist plot that won’t go in the direction that you think!
Audiobook Comments: I loved that this audiobook featured some of the finest voice talent in the industry. Julia Whelan, Lauren Fortgang, and Hillary Huber are all powerhouse narrators and needless to say their performances were amazing. Each reader portrayed their character to perfection, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Pretty Things in audio.